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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  June 5, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT

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automobile manufacturers, retail stores, restaurants, all over this country, employer provision of a portion of the premium is a standard feature of how insurance has been provided for decades, and for those -- those who say that members of congress are getting some special treatment, some congressional subsidy, when the reality -- and they know the reality -- is that this subsidy is just the employer-provided share of a premium that is standard among all americans, i find it very, very troubling. because what would they propose? would they propose that uniquely if you happen to work for the article 1 branch, the legislative branch, you should be denied an employer contribution to your health insurance, just like other americans get it, because you work for the article 1 branch that's specified in the constitution? i think that is essentially
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their argument and i had not intended to get into this topic today, mr. president, but i think it is very clear that we make plain to the american people that public servants who do work in this chamber and in the house chamber and for members who are elected in the states and districts in this country, they are entitled to the same kind of treatment by their employer that is a standard feature of life in most american companies, nonprofits, state and local governments and other institutions. mr. president, in conclusion, i want to say a word about sylvia mathews burwell. i've known her for 25 years. i met her when she was working with the clinton administration as a young hot shot, west virginia student, educated at harvard, rhodes scholar, like some other notable members of this body. and i am proud to support her confirmation to be secretary of health and human services. she has had a strong background not only in the public sector
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most recently as the director of the office of management and budget, but she has also had a superb track record in the private sector. and when you're dealing with these health care issues, mr. president, you and i both know that strong private-sector experience is a very important thing in an issue that's so significant. i have been very impressed with sylvia mathews burwell's work in the office of management and budget. i think she brought a more businesslike and regular order approach to the federal budget issues that are so important, and i think that she will take that approach and that expertise into the h.h.s. position, not just around matters of the affordable care act, but around a whole portfolio of issues that are so critically important. we've got to be about reforms and improvements. sylvia mathews burwell is a person who walks in to work every day wanting things to be better today than they were yesterday, and she's got the experience to do this job. and i'm proud to stand up and support her nomination. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the
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absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. a senator: mr. president, i ask proceedings under the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coops: mr. president, in my home state of delaware, today we have a problem. just this week in my home state, the critical i-495 bridge over the christina river in
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wilmington, which carries more than 90,000 drivers each and every day north and south on this critical artery of the east coast of the united states, was closed indefinitely. while engineers and workers were on an unrelated project in the area, they noticed that four of the key pillars holding up the bridge were alarmingly slanted. causing widespread concerns about the bridge's safety and prompt action to shut it down. now, as the delaware department of transportation and the federal highway administration do everything they can to get to the bottom of this problem and to work to make this bridge safe again, tens of thousands of commuters are forced on to already crowded streets and highways, creating even worse traffic for everyone in our area, hurting our economy and taking people away from where they need to be. it is sadly just yet another example, one that hits particularly close to home for me, in a string of major infrastructure emergencies, some
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due to unforeseeable events and some due to a long-term critical lack of investment, that signify why investment in our infrastructure is so important. you know, every day when americans drive to work or drop off their kids at school, they make a simple bargain, an unconscious bargain with their government. they assume the roads will be safe to drive on. they expect that if they drive safely, they'll be able to get where they need to go in a reasonable amount of time. and unfortunately, mr. president, it's become quite clear that while americans continue doing what they can to move our nation and our economy forward, we here in congress aren't holding up our end of the bargain. we aren't meeting our responsibilities to invest in critical areas that we all know need work. we have a lot of infrastructure needs that we know about but we simply aren't keeping up with them today. this is about the end of the school year for most families with kids in school around the country, and like many other parents, i was sitting down and
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going over with my kids what they think their grades are at the end of the year. well, the country also gets a grade, mr. president. we get a grade from the american society for civil engineers. this is the folks whose job it is to manage and supervise and survey the health and the capabilities of our infrastructure, our bridges and roads and highways. and this group, the american society for civil engineers, well, they gave our roadways a "d." a "d." and the federal highway association sthaims we are dramatically behind -- estimates we are dramatically behind in keeping our bridges and highways and tunnels up to speed. they say we need $170 billion more in capital investments every year to improve road conditions and performance. that group of civil engineers, the asce, has also determined a quarter of our bridges are functional obsolete or
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structurally deficient. in little old delaware, that comes to 175 bridges that fail to meet what we would all expect of our government, that we maintain bridges, federal and state and county and local governments, that we maintain bridges to the highest level of safety that we would expect. well, we won't always face unforeseen crises and challenges, but this is one that we can see coming. there may be hurricanes like the great superstorm hurricane sandy that wiped out a lot of infrastructure in my region, or there may be other uncor unforee events that impact our transportation infrastructure. but this one we've been seeing coming for years. this inconvenience in delaware, this closing of the critical bridge on 495 that has put so many at inconvenience, was nowhere near the biggest transportation disaster we've had in recent years. just last year in washington state, the skagett river bridge,
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built in 1955, literally collapsed after a truck drove into its framework. 71,000 drivers were using that bridge on a daily basis. and i think many of us remember that way back in august of 2007, tragedy struck minneapolis when its i-35 west bridge, which extends over the mississippi river, literally collapsed under the rush-hour traffic weight. more than 100 cars were thrown into the water. 13 people lost their lives. 145 injured. mr. president, if we don't act soon together, we're going to face many more such tragic incidents like these. and we have to address this problem and get over our unwillingness together to invest in infrastructure that we all depend on and value. the simple fact, as i've said, is that current federal investments are not keeping pace with our needs. we are, sadly, months away from exhausting the federal highway trust fund, the trust fund that finances much of the highway and bridge and tunnel work around the country on the interstate
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highway system because the gas tax that funds it hasn't risen in 20 years but the amount of gas being consumed and, thus, gas tax revenue generated, has gone down. yet we don't seem here to have the political will to implement a solution to this basic probl problem, that folks have been saying is coming at us, hurdling like an uncoming truck for years. you know, we talk a lot in this chairman we are abouchamber abo, about the kind of world we want to live them for their hopes and the future, and it's just one of the reason i'm concerned about our nation's long-term balance sheet. many of us talk about our nation's deficits and our potentially crippling federal debt. it is irresponsible of us to continue to rack up debt on our national balance sheet and leave it to our children and grandchildren. but i wanted to highlight today that when we neglect our transportation infrastructure, our highways, our tunnels, our roads, our ports, our bridges, these are things that we use every single day in transporting
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our families or ourselves or goods to and from work or to and from home to school to soccer to vacation. these are critical pieces of the american infrastructure. we're also racking up a huge debt there, too. these investments have to be made one way or the other, and i know we value these systems because we depend on them every day. so if we can't come together in the short term on fixing this highway trust fund, i'm left to wonder how we're going to come together on the much larger problem of meeting our broader infrastructure needs of which that trust fund is just one small but crucial part. we face short-term, medium-term and long-term problems. as i said, we have to fix this highway trust fund before it runs out of funding just this summer. it's what funds often 80% of state highway work. it is a critical part of lots of construction projects already scheduled to go on this summer. we have kept it funded by transferring money from the general fund for the last few years, but that's not how it's
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supposed to work. so we've got to come to terms with a solution that's responsible and meets this challenge. we've got a range of options but none of them are appealing. increasing the gas tax, putting a surcharge on vehicles, charging for vehicle miles traveled. all of these are unappealing politically but essential that we come up with something to solve this long-term problem. i want to thank chairman wyden of the finance committee, who's working hard with other members that have committee even today to find a path forward and a solution. second, in the medium-term, we have to reauthorize, we have to approve ongoing work for highways and roads and bridges, and we need to have a reauthorization for surface transportation by this fall. the chair and the ranking member of the relevant committee, barbara boxer of california and david vitter of louisiana, have shown, as has my senior senator, tom carper from delaware, who also serves on this committee, that federal infrastructure investment is a bipartisan value. they've been able to come out of
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that committee with bipartisan reauthorizations a number of times over the last couple of years, and that's encouraging to me. we also just earlier today, just a few minutes ago, came out of the transportation subcommittee markup on appropriations, the committee that says, here's how much we will spend. that came out with a very strong bipartisan vote earlier today and will come to the floor in the next few months. this progress is encouraging, but it doesn't mean anything if we don't have a way to pay the bill when the bill comes due. long term, we need to figure out how to finance infrastructure in this country. there are several bills, good ideas that have been put forward in this committee, in this chamber. two bills that i have supported. one called the bridge act and the other called the partnership to build america act would take critical steps to bring private sector money in off the sidelines and to facilitate a real partnership between government money and private sector money. these bills have been led by
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senators warner and blunt and bennet are genuinely bipartisan and enjoy support from groups that don't often work together, from industry to labor, from the afl-cio to the u.s. chamber of commerce and the nationals association of manufacturers. there are several strong bipartisan bills that show the way forward, but we don't seem to be able to get them to the floor, to get them approved and to get them moving forward. right now, the truth is that the debate on this floor comes nowhere close to matching the reality of the scope of the problems in front of us. we have an enormous infrastructure debt, as i mentioned earlier. by one estimate, by 2020, in just the next six years, our nation needs $3.6 trillion of new investment. this is to fix, to maintain, to upgrade our roads, bridges, rail, transit, drinking water, ports, sewers, waste water treatment and beyond. this is an enormous debt.
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unpaid and for which we currently have no path forward. i know many of us who serve on the budget committee who pay attention to the balance sheet of our country are concerned about our structural national debt, but i wanted to take a minute today on a day when everyone in my hometown and my home state is concerned about how we will tackle the problem of the i-495 bridge and remind all of my colleagues of the scale of this national infrastructure debt. at the heart of this problem, at the heart of so many of these problems we have here, is our unwillingness to pay for what we want, to pay the bill that is long overdue, for our long over due improvements to the infrastructure of this great country. fixing this problem is going to take a great deal of revenue. we can reform taxes. we can involve the private sector. we can reprioritize funding. we can reform the way government works. we don't lack for innovative ideas, but at the end of the
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day, we lack currently full will. the people of the united states need through us to step up to the challenge of paying the bill, and in my hometown just in the last few hours, just in the last few days, we have become more engaged in this debate than we have been in a long time, because a bridge that is critical, a vital artery for our community has stopped. it is indefinitely closed, and we need to work together to find the resources to fix this bridge and to get america moving together again. it is my hope and plea that my colleagues will step up to this challenge, which i know every community in our country faces. thank you. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican whip.
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mr. cornyn: mr. president, as all of us know, tomorrow, june june 6, marks the 70th anniversary of the normandy landings, which we have come to know as d-day. d-day, of course, was the greatest military operation in history, one that brought together 150,000 troops, 5,000 ships, 13,000 aircraft, all in a sweeping attack on nazi-occupied france, and it marked the beginning of the end for adolf hitler and the third reich. the allied powers, of course, united as one and changed the course of history. it was our troops and our allies who freed a continent from the clutches of tyranny, and our troops who helped win a war. as a country, it is important
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that we recall occasions like the 70th anniversary of the normandy invasion and d-day because the greatest danger is that we forget. we forget not only about the face of evil and what it means to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it also means we need to remind ourselves on a regular basis about the heroism and the courage and the sacrifice of people who gave all they had, including their lives, in order to preserve for us what we now have and which we too often take for granted. we often hear that freedom is not free, and of course we all agree with that, but it almost has become a cliche, and it
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shouldn't be. when we think about our freedom, we ought to think about those men who stormed the beaches at normandy, many of whom lost their lives. those who fought at places like iwo jima, who walked and ran into a buzz saw of enemy fire and many of whom never came back. so we need to remember on days like this and we need to tell the story to our -- to ourselves, to remind ourselves, but we also need to tell that story to our children and grandchildren because they will before long have responsibility for preserving this great experiment that we have in america for over 230 years, self-governing democracy. it's only been purchased by the blood and the treasure of those who have gone on before.
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so we know the free world as we know it owes its existence to the courage, grit and the sacrifice of those who fought at places like normandy, and of course they won't be forgotten. for me personally, i can't help but think about normandy, which my wife and i had the chance to visit a few years ago, without thinking of my father-in-law who landed on utah beach the second day of the normandy invasion. he said after the first day, it was much easier to get on the beach, but the effort then to clear out the german army in the hedgerows right behind the beach was murderous work and very dangerous but thankfully, he came home, like so many, as part of that greatest generation who helped build america into the powerhouse we are today. my father-in-law just recently passed away at age 96, believe it or not. he lived a long, long rewarding
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life, but i can't let the occasion pass without remembering him as one of those brave men who stormed the beaches at normandy 70 years ago. of course, there is another chilling number and that is 50 million when we think about world war ii. 50 million people lost their lives during world war ii. the bloodiest conflict in the history of the world. 50 million people. during world war ii, of course, we recall the brutal dictators, totalitarian ideologies threatened the very existence of the civilized world, and we're reminded of people like adolf hitler and what he did and what other countries did in response, either by way of appeasement or by way of challenging his aggression, and then we know about the war, of course,
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following the pearl harbor attack in hawaii, so america had to fight wars on two fronts, one in asia and the other in europe. but when the united states crossed the atlantic and joined its allies on the beach of normandy, the rescue of europe had begun. history tells us that the weather and conditions that day were harsh. in fact, one soldier described the battle as everything going wrong from the beginning. without a doubt, they knew what awaited them there, and they were not deterred. you might wonder, as i have from time to time, what it took for our men and women in uniform to charge a beach occupied by the german military in france. what could have inspired the kind of courage that we've seen?
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well, i have had occasion to read a book a few years ago as perhaps other colleagues have written by james mcpherson. it's called "for cause and comrades, why men fought in the civil war." when you learn about the brutality of the civil war and how many people lost their lives and what the likelihood of losing your life or being tragically injured and then acquiring an infection and then losing your life in some of the most painful, horrendous ways you can imagine, it was instructive to me to read that book and to realize not only did they fight for our country but they fought for each other as well. which, of course, is the lesson of all wars. fighting for cause and fighting for each other. undeniably, much of the success on d-day was the result of the great strategy and plan by american war planners, including a man who was born in dennison, texas, by the name of dwight
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david eisenhower who served as the supreme allied commander. i see my colleague from kansas on the floor, and i know kansas is going to lay claim or does lay claim to dwight david eisenhower, but i want to state here on the floor of the united states senate, he was born in dennison, texas, not in kansas, although we're proud to share his legacy between both of our states and as a country. general eisenhower's address to the troops on the eve of the landing stands as one of the most memorable exhortations to bravery in the face of evil in the annals of world history. i want to just take a moment and read some of those words. here's what general eisenhower wrote -- quote -- "soldiers, sailors and airmen of the allied expeditionary force, you're about to embark on a great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. the eyes of the world are upon
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you. the hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. he continued -- "the free men of the world are marching together to victory. i have full confidence in your courage, devotion and duty and skill in battle. we will accept nothing less than full victory." eisenhower at a different time once said that morale is the single most important factor in successful wars. morale was what united the allies powers, not a desire to conquer real estate but the desire to defeat the tyrants of europe, to liberate the prisoners of war and those in concentration camps and forever to defeat the evil ideology that motivated adolf hitler and his
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ilk. we know the world we live in is always filled with great uncertainty and unfortunately with evil men and those who would smash democracy and self-government under the boot heel of dictators and tyrants. so while we fervently pray for peace always, we must always be ready to defeat those tyrants, dictators and those who would crush democracy under their boot heel. d-day reminds us that the united states can and should always stand with our friends against terror and tyranny. back home in texas, we have another reminder of this day. for the first time since the war, the battle flag that was raised above the u.s.s. texas as it entered the waters off point dehawk on june 6, 1944, is now
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on public display at the houston museum of natural science in honor of d-day's 70th anniversary. crewman amel saw who was abarred the u.s.s. texas preserved the flag for 48 years and gave it to the museum in 1992. now possessing the space and conditions to properly exhibit the flag, the museum has made this flag public for the first time in honor of the 70th anniversary of d-day. this flag, of course, symbolizes the valor that our troops demonstrated that day and makes sure that future generations will never, ever forget their sacrifices. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: mr. president, thank you. i certainly appreciate the remarks of the -- my colleague, the senator from texas, in regard to honoring those who served our country so nobly and so courageously 70 years ago, as we recognize this weekend the anniversary of that invasion of europe called d-day. we have many veterans in our country, many military men and women who continue to serve and many who now are veterans and have served in the past, and we are -- i'm here today to pay tribute not only to those d-day military men and women and those who served our country on such a
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special occasion in which the course of history was changed, but also to pay tribute to all of those who have served our country in all circumstances. mr. president, i'm not a veter veteran. i have great regard for those who are. my life is shaped by the fact that the vietnam war was ongoing during my days as a high school student, and much of my time was spent talking to those a few years older than i who were volunteering or who were drafted and those who were even a little bit older than that who returned home after service in vietnam. i clearly remember as a 16, 17-year-old watching the evening news, ""cbs evening news" with walter cronkite "" and every day the news was consumed with reports from vietnam, the consequences that we found ourselves in and the sacrifice that men and women were make on
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tha --were making on that battld every day. again, i didn't serve in vietnam but i learned a couple of things from my time observing our country and seeing the sacrifice and service of those who were willing to serve in that war. mr. president, one of the things that i take from that experience is that we will always honor, care for, respect those who serve our country in its military in whatever circumstance they've been called to duty. mr. president, it was a month ago that i was on the floor in this spot concerned about the department of veterans affairs and the way that our veterans were currently being treated, and i asked for the dramatic step of the secretary of the department of veterans affairs to submit his resignation and
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for president obama to accept it. as i indicated a month ago, that was the first and only time as a united states senator that i've ever asked a cabinet secretary to depart his or her position and i didn't do it lightly. but what had transpired, what has transpired over a period of time is a department of veterans affairs that many veterans no longer believe are capable of caring for them and, in fact, what was so discouraging and disappointing to me was the number of veterans, men and women who served our country, who had lost faith, who had lost hope in the department of veterans affairs. that department was created in 1930 for purposes of providing the benefits and health care, supporting those who called to duty, those who responded to their country's call. and i certainly know that throughout the time, the course of history that the department
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of veterans affairs has had its challenges. but what seems so compelling to me over the last several years is the sense that no longer was there a plan, no longer was there the effort to make certain that that department lived up to its commitment to those who previously served our country. a lot's transpired in the last month and there's now an acting secretary of the department of veterans affairs and, of course, we have reports from across the country of secret lists, concerns about waiting times and the potential of servicemen and women, veterans who have suffered as a result of those lists, as a result of having to wait. and i guess we will know more about that over the course of time. i'm surprised and disappointed to learn that kansas hospitals, kansas facilities, the v.a. hospital in wichita is on that
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list, where investigations are now ongoing and where the department of veterans affairs has admitted to a list that delayed access to health care. i would not have expected that in our state. i think we're different, we're special. but the reality is, this challenge that we face and the problems that are there are systemwide and across the country. what we want here is a department of veterans affairs that is worthy of the sacrifice and service of the men and women who served in our military. we don't want damage control from the department of veterans affairs, and what we want is the end of damage to those who served our country.the purpose of my conversation on the floor today is to make certain that we don't lose sight. the news cycle comes and goes, and while there are serious issues that our country faces in
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many facets, i don't want this senate to lose sight of its responsibility to make certain that the department of veterans affairs is caring for those who need our care and treatment. and, mr. president, i'm worried and i hope that my worries are unfounded. i've only served in the senate for four years. i've been frustrated by being a member of the united states senate. i came here to accomplish things on behalf of americans, on behalf of kansans. and my plea is, my plea is to the democrat leaders, to the republican leaders, to individual senators, whatever party they are, let's not follow the path that we have followed so many times in the short period of time that i've been here in which there's a republican plan to fix a problem and there's a democrat plan to fix a problem. surely our veterans deserve something more than each of us being able to say we cast a vote for their benefit.
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surely they deserve the opportunity to actually have legislation that will address the challenges and problems at the department of veterans affairs -- that the department of veterans affairs has. my plea and my request of all in this body is for these veterans, is to make certain that we conduct ourselves in a different way than unfortunately i've seen in most instances as a united states senator. we have this phrase around here, "well, we'll get a side-by-side," meaning that there's a democrat plan and a republican plan. and when you talk about that, what that means is that we never expect either one of those plans to pass. and so to the chairman and ranking member of the senate veterans' affairs committee, to senator reid, the majority leader of the united states senate, please, take us down a path that demonstrates once again the senate can rise to the occasion and do something worthy of the veterans who have served
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our country. every once in awhile in this frustration about the way this place doesn't work, i'll put on my running shoes and i'll walk down to the lincoln memorial. and it's an inspiring visit certainly to the lincoln memorial, but perhaps more importantly is on that walk, you now go by the world war ii memorial that memorializes those that the senator from texas was talking about on d-day. you then walk by the vietnam wall, the war that was ongoing in my teenage years. on your way back, you come by the korean war memorial, the forgotten war. what i'm reminded and what i would call to the attention of my colleagues is not a person recognized in any of those memorials volunteered or drafted for purposes of advancing the cause of the republican party or the democrat party. there was no interest in
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partisan politics by those who served our country. they served their country because they believed in a higher calling. they believed they could make a difference. they believed that it mattered to their kids and grandkids. it was about freedom and liber liberty. it wasn't about who scores points in the next election. please, leaders of the united states senate, all of my colleagues, make certain that we rise to the occasion, that we have the same standard, the same motivation, the same reason that we come here every day be the same as theirs -- to make america a better place, to make sure our kids and grandkids live with freedom and liberty, to make sure the american dream is alive and well. and if there is an issue that we ought to be able to do that, an issue perhaps different than anything else we deal with, surely we have the ability as a united states senate to deal with the issues necessary
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legislatively to resolve and address the problems of the department of veterans affairs and to make certain that every veteran has the service -- who has served our count country hae ability to access the health carely and health care that's quality and provided in a timely fashion -- health care care that's timely and quality and provided in a timely fashion and that once again the united states senate doesn't do what it's done too many times and that is we all cast a vote and we can claim we've done something, we supported something, but the end result is that nothing happened. let's avoid nothing happening. mr. president, finally, let me conclude by saying that that world war ii memorial is special to me. i have a 98-year-old father home in plainville, kansas, a world war ii veteran. i walked up to the world war ii memorial 10 years ago as just a few days before it was being
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dedicated. and i wanted to see what it was going to look like. it was an inspiring moment. i happened to have my cell phone with me and i walked over to the kansas pillar and thought about those who've served our country in that war, including my dad back home. i walked away from the memorial and used my cell phone to call my dad at home. the message i delivered to my dad that day was, "dad, i'm at the world war ii memorial. it's a memorial built for you. dad, i want you to know that i thank you for your service, i respect you and i love you." that event, that conversation fortunately took place on an answering machine -- unfortunately took place on an answering machine, not in
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person. it was easier to deliver. although i would tell you that my dad a few minutes later, my cell phone rang and my dad said, "gerald, you left me a message but i couldn't understand it. could you tell me again." the point i want to make is, we are called upon as american citizens, certainly as members of the united states senate, to do all the things that we can do to demonstrate that we thank our veterans for their service, we respect them, and we love them. the senate needs to rise to the occasion and not let the partisan politics of this place and this country divide us in a way in which we only symbolically respond but the end result is that we failed those who served and we failed our veterans who depend upon us just
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as we depended upon them for their service to our country. mr. president, i yield the flo floor. mr. nelson: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i want to speak on behalf of sylvia mathews burwell. we've had a lot of commentary out here that she has really shown her capability in her time as the head of the office of management and budget, o.m.b.,
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and she's going to have a similar success now in the department of health and human services. and we're going to be voting on her just before 2:00 this afternoon. and i'm certainly looking forward. it's going to be a resounding vote. and i think it's because most people feel like that she has really done an excellent job at o.m.b. in this senator's experience with her over one of the small agencies of government, in discussing it with her, where this senator felt like that o.m.b. had targeted that little agency instead of allowing the experts, they were driving that
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agency -- and specifically i'm talking about nasa -- purely from a finance and budgetary standpoint instead of what we want to accomplish in the nation's space program. and ms. burwell understood that. and she tried to help out from an agency that is more concerned just with the budgetary aspects of government, and she understood you have got to get into what you want the agency to accomplish instead of just looking at the budgetary aspects. now, i appreciated that very much, and i think we are going to have the similar kind of experience at h.h.s. with
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ms. burwell. now, goodness gracious, she takes over an agency that certainly has its hands full as we are, for example, just trying to continue to expand medicaid, and expand it to all of the people in the states that have been not denied the expansion of medicaid. and so what we had asked during the confirmation hearings is that she consider working with the states to find sometimes compromises on a way to do that, to expand medicaid when an estate was balking. 24 states have not taken the federal government up on the offer to pay the full cost of
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expansion for the first three years, and then after the year 2020, the federal government will pay 90% of the cost of expansion, and i want to give you an example in my own state of florida. the state of florida ostensibly because they did not want to incur the 10% costs of medicaid expansion after the year 2020, that was the reason they gave, but it really wasn't the real reason that they didn't want to expand. they just didn't want to have anything to do with the affordable care act. many of them labeled it as obamacare, but what they had done is deny in florida a
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population of over a million people, specifically 1.2 million people in florida the availability of health care by expanding the eligibility for all medicaid up to the level of 138% of poverty. that level is for a family of four $32,500 a year. now, you think if -- if a million people, over a million in a state that otherwise could get health care and they are making $32,000 or less, you can't expect them to go out and
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buy health insurance if they are only bringing in $32,000 for a family of four. that's not reasonable, and that's why we expanded medicaid in the affordable care act. but politics has a way of getting in the way, and there are 24 states that did not expand. in florida's case, this meant over this period of time, there is $51 billion of floriddians' federal taxpayer money that would be brought to florida to pay for those additional 1.2 million people that could get health care.
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well, first of all, it's an issue of quality of life. why don't you want people to have health care who can't afford it? that's the whole idea of increasing the percentage of poverty level in order to make people eligible for medicaid, but aside from that, if the federal money is available for providing that health care -- in this case, $51 billion, why wouldn't you want to take the federal money to pay for the health care of your people and your people being a substantial number of people? over a million. but in addition to that, if you
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care about creation of jobs, you're talking about 125,000 jobs additionally created because of this expansion of providing health care. so all the way around, it's a win-win-win. it provides jobs, it certainly provides quality of life by providing health care, and the federal money is already dedicated. but top politics gets in the way, and politics got in the way in the state of florida and 23 other states. now, what to do about it? okay. the stated reason was that -- we
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don't want our state to have the obligation of additional spending 10% after the year 2020. okay. what we have shown is a program that is already in place in state law to provide for poor people's health care through the low-income pool and other assistance to hospitals that serve that poor population, a tax base that already pays for that taxes at the local level. we suggested this. you don't have to raise any new taxes to pay your state's share of the 10%. those taxes are already being paid.
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you shift that money that's there because you're going to expand medicaid and take care of all the poor people, that some of which are being taken care of now and just use that tax base in the place of the state of florida's share of 10%. the legislature of florida would not buy it in the closing days and weeks of the session. it is my hope that they will in the future, but that is the kind of example that the new secretary of h.h.s. will be dealing with as the previous secretary of h.h.s. has already dealt with iterations of how to cover additional medicaid population, states like arkansas and michigan have worked with h.h.s. to find ways, some of
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them using the private marketplace to expand coverage. and so it is my hope that with the new secretary, with the obvious need of additional health care for people who cannot afford it in the private insurance market, that we will see this turned around in the next session of the legislature. otherwise, every day the state of florida loses $7 million that would be coming to the state for health care for people of low income. i want to say that i'm very proud of our state. during the open enrollment period, nearly a million people in florida signed up for the
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health insurance coverage in the state exchange that is run under the federal rules. of the eight million people nationwide that signed up on the state exchanges, almost a million of that eight million were in our state of florida. so it shows you the hunger of folks there knowing that if they can get health insurance or health care through medicaid, that they certainly want that very much, and i hope under the leadership of ms. burwell that we're going to be able to make that a reality in the coming year. and i know she is going to do a
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great job as secretary of h.h.s. mr. president, i yield the floor and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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hatch madam president, i ask that the imoarm call be dispensed with. officer is without objection. hatch thanmr. hatch: thank you.
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today the senate is expected to vote on the nomination of sylvia mathews burwell to be the next secretary of the department of health and human services. i expect her to be confirmed, and i expect that she will receive a fair number of votes from both sides of the aisle. i, for one, plan to vote in favor of confirming ms. burwell, and i believe she is well-qualified and well-suited for this position. but let's be clear, madam president. if ms. burwell is confirmed, she will have a difficult job ahead of her, particularly when it comes to the implementation of the so-called affordable care act. while i support ms. burwell's nomination, no one should mistake to that to mean that i have somehow softened in my resolve against obamacare. indeed, i am as commi committeds ever to repealing and replacing this horribly misguided law. i hold this position not due to
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politics or partisanship but due to the real -- very real problems this law is causing for our citizens, for our government, and for our nation's health care system. i would like to take few minutes today to talk about some of the specific problems we're seeing with obamacare and what some of my colleagues and i are doing to address them. as we all know, under the so-called affordable care act, states are required to have an online exchange where citizens can go to purchase health insurance. the law gives the states the option of creating their own exchange, using the exchange provided by the federal government or using a hybrid of the two. the department of health and human services gave every state $1 million to fund research and analysis to determine what type of an exchange they would use. additional grants were given this two stages -- two stages for those states who chose to build all or part of their own
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exchanges. on top of that, h.h.s. awarded seven early innovator grants to states who decided early 0en to build their own exchanges in order to help support the development and earlier -- early implementation of the necessary information technology system. all told, states received $4.7 billion from h.h.s. to assist them in building their exchanges. the problem we're seeing now is that apparently this money was just handed out with little or no accountability. at least seven states -- seven states -- have failed to build a successful web site and exchange, even though they received and accepted federal taxpayer dollars specifically for that purpose. now, these states are scrambling to either rebuild their entire systems or to transition to the federal exchanges. these seven states received
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roughly $1.3 billion from h.h.s. to build their exchanges. that's $1.3 billion with a "b" to just seven states in the union. that's more than one-quarter of the total amount h.h.s. provided to states for the purpose of building their own state health care exchanges. and apparently these states have little or nothing to show for it. in fact, at least three of them are looking to drop their own exchanges entirely and use the federal exchange instead now. you heard that right, madam president. three states who between them received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to build their exchanges now want to abandon the prospect entirely and join the federal exchange. let's keep in mind that adding them to the federal exchange will not be simple, nor will it be cheap.
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more millions will be spent to transition these states, along with any other states that may choose the same course in the future, into the federal exchange. this is simply preposterous, madam president. where is the accountability? where is the outrage from h.h.s. over those lost the and misfed funds? there doesn't seem to be any. for her parkts th -- for her pas the president's nominee to run h.h.s., ms. burwell, has acknowledged there is a problem here. i asked her whether states who have negligently mismanaged their exchange funds should be required to reimburse the taxpayers for those losses and for their failures. her answer was somewhat encouraging. she said that if she was confirmed, she would want to get to the bottom of this problem and -- quote -- "use the full extent of the law to get those funds back for the taxpayers." unquote. unfortunately, in answer to my
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follow-up question whether she would commit to withholding additional exchange-related funds from those failing states, she was not quite so defensive medicindefinitive.i was glad tot acknowledge the problem and make a miment to recouping taxpayers' funds lost in these ziebach icles. if she is confirmed, i hope with all my heart that she will live up to this commitment, and i expect her to do so. that said, it is clear that if we are going to make the taxpayers whole on this matter, we are going to need to do something besides waiting around for h.h.s. to address the problem. indeed, if our experience has taught us anything, it's that commitments made in the context of the confirmation hearing often fall by the wayside. i don't intend to have this one fall by the wayside. that has been particularly true, though, with this administration, especially when the commitments deal with obamacare. that's why i have joined with the ranking member of the senate
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judiciary committee, senator grassley, in an investigation into this matter. congress needs to exercise proper oversight on this issue. we need to get answers, and we need to get them now, and one way or another, we are going to get them. last month, senator grassley and i sent a letter to the c.m.s. administrator asking about c.m.s.'s communication with the states with regard to the difficulties they have had setting up exchanges and their use of federal funds. like i said, madam president, all told, these failures amount to over a billion dollars in lost funds. the american people deserve to know where the money went and why it was so horribly misused. that's not all the american people deserve. they also deserve to be paid back for these losses. that's why i have joined with senator barrasso in introducing the state exchange accountability act, a bill that will require the states to pay
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back these wasted funds. and every senator here, democrat or republican, ought to be willing to back that bill. specifically, if enacted, our bill would require those states that operated a state exchange in 2014 and subsequently chose to use the federal exchange to repay all of their establishment and early innovator exchange grants. the bill would give them a ten-year time frame to do so. states would have to enter into an agreement with h.h.s. to repay at a minimum 10% of the total grant money they received every year. states have fallen to these requirements but failed to enter into such an agreement would see their federal assistance medical percentages or f-map reduced by h.h.s. the f-map reduction would be uniform and take place over a ten-year period that would be equal to the amount of exchange grant money the state received.
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under the bill, h.h.s. would be explicitly prohibited from reducing the amount of reimbursement the states owe the federal government. i expect some will deem this approach to be too punitive, but they shouldn't. they should not think that. i don't think anyone can reasonably dispute that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with. our solution is reasonable and achievable. all we ask is that the states that have wasted taxpayer funds repay them within a reasonable period of time. we give these states ten years to pay the money back. this is not punitive, madam president. it is necessary. more than anything, the failures we're seeing with the state health care exchanges demonstrate that the affordable care act has been flawed from the beginning. indeed, it was the law itself that included an open-ended appropriation to help states build their exchanges without any mechanism to make states accountable for wasting those
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funds. given these fundamental problems, i expect that we'll see more states take this route, especially if no steps are taken to make them accountable. congressional oversight into these failings is vital, and i hope that the administration will cooperate in our effort to resolve this problem or these problems. our legislation is no less important. it's the only way to guarantee that the american taxpayers get their money back. but that's not all we need to do. make no mistake -- obamacare is doing serious damage to our nation's health care system and our nation's fix future as well. when it comes to his health law, the president's favorite argument is the republicans have not produced an alternative of their own. however, this is simply untrue, and i suspect the president knows that. earlier this year, two of my colleagues and i unveiled a legislative proposal that would undo the damage obamacare has
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inflicted on the american people. unlike the affordable care act, our proposal would actually reduce costs and shore up our entitlements, and it would do so without all the harmful, distorted mandates and regulations we see under obamacare. once again, in the -- under obamacare. once again, in the immediate future, we need to solve this problem with the failed state exchanges. we also need to keep our eyes focused on the long-term goal of repealing obamacare once and for all and replacing it with something that will actually work for the american people. i hope that as time wears on, more of my colleagues, particularly those on the other side of the aisle, will recognize that this is what we really need to do and have to do. like i said, madam president, i intend to vote today in favor of miss burwell's nomination to head h.h.s. i have helped that process to go smoothly. i want it to go smoothly.
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i believe she is a good choice for this job, and i -- i am hoping with all my heart that she will be that good choice that she has indicated she is and that i have deduced she is, but i still have a number of concerns about the direction the agency is having. during the course of her confirmation hearing, miss burwell made two very important commitments to me. the first commitment she made was to respond promptly within 30 days to questions and inquiries submitted to h.h.s. from members of congress. now, this is an important commitment, one that i hope she lives up to. under this administration, h.h.s. has been one of the least transparent of all federal agencies. letters and inquiries oftentimes have been ignored entirely, and when we do receive letters in return from h.h.s., they are almost in every case
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unresponsive. miss burwell is submitted to changing that practice, and i respect her for it. it's part of the reason i led the charge to have her confirmed. once again, i surely hope she does help change that practice. i mentioned the other major commitment she made to me earlier in dealing with the failed state exchanges. miss burwell committed to doing everything in her power to retrieve the wasted taxpayer funds. this commitment is also important because thus far h.h.s. has refused to acknowledge many of the problems they faced in implementing the affordable care act. the fact that she made this commitment to me demonstrates that she is at least willing to admit that there are some major problems with the program. i support miss burwell's nomination in large part because of these commitments she has made. i hope she lives up to them.
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i think she has the ability to live up to them, and i have high hopes of that. no one should misread my vote today as an acknowledgment that all is now right with the world of obamacare and at h.h.s., because nothing could be further from the truth, but ms. burwell has for her part act knowledged that promise exists and has committed to doing what she can to fix those problems. under this administration, that's probably the best we could hope for. this is an important nomination. she is a very qualified woman, in my opinion. she has had some significant experiences in the federal government, and i have high hopes that she will turn out to be a wonderful administrator at h.h.s. it's almost an uncontrollable,
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unadministerrable agency, and i'm going to give her all the help that i possibly can to help get that agency under control and to help get it right again. this is important. i feel deeply about it. people in the bureaucracy know that if they work with me, i will move heaven and earth to try and help them. it's time our government is more responsive to its citizens, more responsive to with a people believed when they were confirmed and more responsive in solving these problems that really are so significant, so costly and so important to the american people. madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. wyden: madam president in. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: i ask consent to vacate the quorum call. spher officer without objection. mr. wyden: madam president, to close for our side, i'd like to strongly urge my colleagues in a
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few minutes to support the nomination of sylvia mathews burwell to be the next secretary of the department of health and human services. and i want to start with a simple fact. sylvia mathews burwell's nomination has a breadth of bipartisan support because she is really that good. she is really that capable, and she is really that qualified. and i'm going to say to colleagues, nobody has got to take my word for it. we all know that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle -- senator coburn is a man of strong views. he says what he means, and he means what he says. and as athe ranking member -- and as the ranking member of the government reform committee, senator coburn has had many
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opportunities to work closely with ms. burwell during her service as the o.m.b. director. here's what he said. for example, he said emphasized the nominee's competence. and i quote, "the fact is, when you have somebody that's competent and also has strong character, you find a way to get past your differences to try to solve problems." and he emphasized that she is a good listener understand that as commucommunicative. "responsiveness is a key four the congress. and i have to tell you, i found her remarkably responsive. the fact is, she is going to be committed to do the right thing and to keep congress involved." and finally, in a quote that i thought was particular striking, madam president, senator coburn
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said, "even when she has made up her mind, which sometimes happens, she will listen to another point of view to get information that she might not have." and senator coburn said, "that's a characteristic too often that we don't see as members of congress and in members of the administration, whether they're republican or democrat." and senator coburn is not the only one who is part of this, you could call it, choir of bipartisan support for sylvia mathews bur wevment when she went before the help committee, our colleague from north carolina, senator burr, another republican, said, and i quote, "i support her nomination. i will vote for her in the finance committee, and it's for one primary reason: it's because she doesn't come with a single experience that would make her a
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good secretary. she comes with a portfolio of experience that would make her a tremendous asset at addressing some of the challenges at the -t the agency specifically and uniquely has." and senator burr said, "i look forward to her confirmation being quick and our ability to then work together to be every bit as quick." madam president, these are statements that reflect a nominee who is going to be, in my view, an active agent of bipartisanship. she is somebody who has already shown that she can bring democrats and republicans together to solve big challenges, and i think she is going to show it at the department of health and human services. and suffice it to say, we know that health and human sstleses will need -- services will need strong leadership in the days ahead. we know the debate about the
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affordable care act is going to continue, madam president. it's going to continue in hawaii and oregon and across the country. and my hope, as chair of the finance committee, is that sylvia mathews burwell can help bring together democrats and republicans to build on the affordable care act just as many of us did to work with former president george w. bush to strengthen the part-d program, the medicare prescription drug program. many of the first stories about medicare part-d were much like the first stories about the affordable care act. and yet democrats and republicans came together, were able to strengthen part-d to the point where now enormous support among seniors, and it's come in at 30% -- more than 30% below the cost projected by the congressional budget office. so let's all work together with sylvia mathews burwell to do for the affordable care act what we
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did with george w. bush's program on prescription drugs, and that's work in a bipartisan way. and, madam president, one of the reasons i'm so enthused about sylvia mathews burwell is that we have big challenges that both sides -- both democrats and republicans -- are going to have to team up on to tackle in the days ahead. for example, medicare in 2014 is dramatically different than medicare when it began in 1965. in 1965, for example, madam president, if a senior broke their ankle, if he or she needed to see a doctor, they went perhaps to an outpatient program part-b of the medicare program. if they needed more attention be, they had to go to a hospital, they would get assistance in the hospital under
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part-a. today that's not primarily what medicare is all about. today, madam president, well over 80% of medicare is tackling chronic disease. we're talking about diabetes, we're talking about cancer, we're talking about strokes and heart disease, and seniorly is if you add alzheimer's on top of it, that's 90% of the medicare program. that broken ankle, when the senior has one, of course it has to be taken care of. but most of medicare is about chronic disease. and so what we're going to need is democrats and republicans coming together to tackle an issue that, frankly, has gotten short sshort-sh rift in washing, d.c. didn't come up a whole lot in the debate on the affordable care act on any side, and yet it's going to be the issue thatt
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dominates the future of the flagship health care program in this country, you know, medicare, and much of what is done for chronic disease through the medicare population -- for the medicare population, madam president, will also be copied for the under-65 population, since the trend historically when medicare takes bold, a it is often replicated in the private sector. so some of this work has begun, but the fact is, we need a strong leader with bipartisan support, as i've tried to highlight with dr. coburn's comefntse coburn'scomments and s comments and others, and, madam president, i think it was all summed up when dr. coburn and senator rockefeller, the senior republican senator from her home state, teamed up that first day and set the mood about how this would be a nominee with
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exceptional abilities to reach out and tackle the big challenges of our time. medicare, of course, in nigh view, is the big -- in my view, soliciis the biggest. the child welfare programs that the department manages, these are programs, madam president, that are critical lifelines for struggling americans across the country. so many of our people are now falling behind the cracks, falling between the cracks into poverty since the recession. and the department of health and human services plays a powerful role ensuring that we have a strong safety net. now, i've talked about her credentials before, bu but her education, a stellar background, a graduate of harvard and oxford where she was a road scholar. she was a staff director of the national economic council. this is someone with real savvy on the big economic challenges.
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and sh she has got superb experience becoming deputy chief of staff to the president and moving the following year to the deputy director of the office of management and budget. she also has extensive experience in the nonprofit world. at the gates fang she led efforts to tackle some of the most pressing global health challenges of our time. and at the wal-mart foundation where she served in 2011, she offered outstanding leadership in the fight against hunger and to improve economic opportunity for women. now, as senators consider this nomination here in the last couple of minutes before the vote, i only want to remind perhaps not subtly, madam president, the senate confirmed sylvia mathews burwell for the position of director of office of management and budget 96-0.
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96-0, madam president. i think that's a pretty rare statement of bipartisanship for an extremely important position that not only has sylvia mathews burwell discharged very well, she has won additional pplaud i thinks for her -- plaudits for her work as i've indicated today. she is going to respond to the big questions and the big challenges in a way that i believe brings americans together. that's what senators have said throughout the process, and they said it whether you have a "d" or an "r" nokes your name. what the country needs, in short, is somebody who is a true agent of bipartisanship. i conclude my remarks, madam president, by saying, i've gotten to know sylvia mathews
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burwell well in the past few years. she is the right choice for the right time, and i strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me this afternoon in supporting her nomination. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of health and human services, sylvia mathews burwell of west virginia to be secretary. the presiding officer: the question is on the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays have been ordered. the clerk will call the roll.
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